Experience-Dependent Recovery of Block Design Performance in Male Alcoholics: Strategy Training vs. Unstructured Practice

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Neuropsychological functioning in alcoholics has been known to improve with length of abstinence. However, recovery in some areas is limited in the absence of specific cognitive stimulation. In order to better identify the factor(s) responsible for experience-dependent recovery in alcoholics, the current investigation compared a strategy training approach to the unstructured practice approach used in previous studies. Results showed that both treatments improved Block Design performance in abstinent male alcoholics to levels comparable to nonalcoholic controls, while unremediated alcoholics remained significantly impaired. Unstructured practice was sufficient to improve Block Design performance, with no additional advantage evident in alcoholics receiving strategy training. Hence, forced use of cognitive skills appears to be the important factor in experience-dependent recovery.

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Journal of Studies on Alcohol, v. 49, issue 5, p. 406-411